258. Editorial Note

In his memoirs, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, recalled that upon taking office, he and his staff quickly set a number of foreign policy goals that the Carter administration should pursue. One was the restriction of “the level of global armaments, unilaterally and through international agreements. We were determined to reduce by 15 percent, with the exclusion of transfers to NATO, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, the dollar value of transfers from the 1976 totals.” (Power and Principle, p. 55) In his first National Security Council meeting, President Carter “directed that all requests for arms sales come to him” for approval. (Summary of Conclusions, January 22, 1977; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Meetings File, Box 1, NSC Meeting #1: Held 1/22/77, 1/77)

In a January 23, 1977, interview, Carter said that while he did not want to institute a “moratorium” on arms sales “because that is an abrupt and total termination of all ownership,” he noted that his advisers, “in I think unanimity,” supported “the necessity for reducing arms sales or having very tight restraints on future commitments to minimize the efforts by arms manufacturers to initiate sales early in the process. The Secretary of State will be much more hesitant in the future to recommend to the Defense Department the culmination of arms sales agreements. I have asked that all approvals of arms sales, for a change, be submitted to me directly before the recommendations go to Congress. We also have asked Vice President [Walter] Mondale in his early trip among our own allies and friends, some of whom are heavy arms exporters, to join with us on a multilateral basis. We will also be talking to some of the primary arms purchasers, particularly the Middle East when Secretary Vance goes there very shortly, to hold down their purchases of arms from us and other countries. This will be a continuing effort on my part.” (Documents on Disarmament, 1977, p. 20)